IRWINDALE – MANY REPEAT WINNERS & 265 LAPS – By Tim Kennedy
Irwindale, CA., Oct. 10 – Irwindale Speedway presented its sixth NASCAR Advance Auto Parts event during the COVID-19 pandemic Saturday from 5:30 to 9:20 pm. It was the second consecutive racing program using track lights because sunset was earlier than June through August events. Only competitors were admitted to the five divisions, eight main events program totaling 265 laps. Fans at home as usual were able to watch via the internet. All winners were familiar with first place trophy presentations.
The progressively-banked half-mile was the venue for 12 LKQ Pick Your Part late models, which ran a pair of 35-lap features as the first and last events on the card. Spec Racers (eight Lucas Oil trucks and seven You Race LA spec late models) ran a combined 40-lap main as the fifth event. Winners of both series received 50 first place points towards the two track championships.
The four-degree banked third-mile was the setting for three divisions—INEX Legend Cars, Tucker Tire enduro cars, and super stocks, which raced one 35-lap main. Legends raced a pair of 35-lappers. Enduro sedans ran two 25-lap races on the six-turn r-oval. It jogged into the backstretch infield and extended from the fourth turn outward to the half-mile start/finish line before a left turn towards the third-mile first turn.
Fastest qualifier Trevor Huddleston, 24, won both late model 35-lap features. The three-time track champion now has 59 feature victories at IS. He is tied for third place for most overall victories at the track, which his father Tim has co-promoted since 2018. He started first in the straight-up lineup for race one and started eighth in the second race that had an eight-car inverted lineup based on the first race finish. The all-green 11-minute first race averaged 89.424 mph.
The Spec Racers 40-lap event also sent past winners to the podium. Andrew Porter, 26, started sixth and finished second overall and first in class. It was his sixth consecutive victory since June. Spec late model rookie Jake Drew, 20, started ninth and waged a captivating duel with truckers Dennis Arena and Porter from laps 10-18.
Drew, a karting winner and instructor at karting tracks, shot past Porter for second on lap 17. A lap later he passed Arena on the inside at turn four for the lead he held to the finish. He won by 15-yards over Porter, who got by Arena before lap 25. Drew, from Fullerton, won his second start in the No. 56 HPR Chevy on July 11 after finishing second in his initial IS race in the same car. He was recruited by IS co-promoter/Sunrise Ford dealer Bob Bruncati, who also supplies IS with Ford pace cars/trucks.
INEX Legends competed in the series season finale. A close point race had several drivers battling for their first IS championship during the twin-35s. Rookie Tyler Reif, 13, set fastest qualifying time and started ninth in the fully-inverted first race and finished fourth. Title hopeful/veteran Tyler Hicks, from Encinitas, started fifth and placed third after leading the first five laps. Chad Schug, a three-time IS Legends champion (2010-11, 2015), drove the No 09 Ricky Leigh coupe for the first time instead of his own No. 29 coupe. The 33-year old started seventh and led the final 30 laps for his 22nd Irwindale victory in the third event of the night.
The second Legends main (event seven) inverted the first eight finishers from the first race. Christian Bazen, 15, started third and led the first lap. Camden Murphy, visiting from Charlotte, N.C, led lap 2 in his first IS race. Fifth starter Reif led laps 3-4, but contact on lap 5 in turn four caused him to spin. His steering column broke; his car had to be lifted by a wrecker and carried to the pits. First race winner Hicks inherited the lead and paced the field from lap 5 through lap 34.
On the white flag lap a car spun at turn two in the groove. Schug went to the outside to avoid contact as P. 2 Lawless Alan ducked to the inside and emerged with the lead. He beat Schug to the waving checkered flag by 0.557. Jake Bollman, 15, was third 0.644 back. Legends No. 6 owner/driver Hicks, 25, won his first IS track championship by a handful of points. Disappointed Reif set his fourth fast time in six events in his No. 7 coupe. He is a teammate to his 15-year old brother Tanner in family-owned cars out of Las Vegas.
During six race nights with double main events, the racy Legends series averaged nine cars with a high of 12 on June 13. There were seven different feature winners, including three first-time Legend Cars winners at Irwindale. Reif won the first 35 lapper on August 22 for his IS initial triumph. He and his brother also race and win at their hometown LVMS “Bullring” asphalt three-eighths mile oval.
Events two and six were for enduro sedans. A season-high 20 four-cylinder sedans competed for the fourth time in seven events this year. All ten stock sedans started in front of the ten faster sport sedans and raced for separate track championships. Rodney Argo, a retired 410 sprint car owner/driverfrom Gardena, started 16th and led laps 11-25 for his fifth sport class 2020 victory in his No. 9 black 1999 Honda Prelude.
His 28th triumph at Irwindale moved Argo to 17th position all-time on the track where he started racing three years ago for fun. Hawthorne resident Robert Rice (Honda Accord) won the stock class by placing fifth overall. He now has 59 victories at IS and is tied for most victories with late model double winner Huddleston for third place. They are only one victory short of Ryan Partridge’s 60 and eight behind all-time track winner Rip Michels’ 67.
The second enduro 25 again started all 20 cars. Fastest qualifier Bory Molina (Toyota Celica) started 12th, led laps 21-25, and won the sport class for the third time this season. Pole starter Chris Voight (Honda Accord) led laps 15-20 and won his second stock class 50-points this season. He finished a strong second overall, only 1.800 seconds off the lead.
Super stocks started nine cars in event four of the night. Fastest qualifier Rich De Long III, 32, started eighth and led laps 18-35 in his No. 84 Chevy SS. He bumped his total IS career victories to 24, which is 22nd best all-time at the track. Craig Rayburn led laps 4-17 in his Camaro and trailed the winner by 0.328 after 35 circuits. However, his car did not pass post-race tech inspection and was dropped to last place. Bryan Harrell, a two-time series champion and two-time winner this seasson, inherited second spot driving the No. 94 Sampson Camaro.
During 3:00 pm qualifying De Long III, from Castaic, broke his own third-mile one lap track record. His 16.257 (73.741 mph) eclipsed his two month old mark of 16.332. The three-time series champion (2010, 18-19) has dominated the division after cutting back his NASCAR West racing. He won three of six mains this year officially. He lost one victory via a DQ during tech inspection for a non-conforming body panel. De Long III, who competes against his father and younger brother Jason in family-owned cars, won three of six 2018 SS mains. Last season he won all eight features. The 2020 SS division has had three feature winners.
LATE MODEL MAINS: The official finishes were:
First 35: Huddleston, Dylan Garner, Lawless Alan, Dean Thompson, Nick Joanides (No. 26), Tanner Reif (No. 43), Lucas McNeil, Dustin Vandermooren, Andre Prescott, Kevin Furden, Rodney Peacher, Takuma Okada, from Japan. P. 1-10 all completed 35 laps.
Second 35: Huddleston, Joanides, Thompson, Garner, McNeil, Reif, Vandermooren, Prescott, Okada. DNF-Furden, Peacher. DNS-Alan.
NOTE: A lap 9 crash caused a 33-minute red flag. Furden’s car spun into the third turn crashwall on the driver side. He lost consciousness, but in a few minutes the second generation driver was talking to concerned track safety workers. An ambulance took him to a nearby hospital to complete a precautionary medical evaluation for a possible concussion.